How are the beauty salons faring with SOPs?
Over the past five months, Lahore has seen a number of changes in the social attitude of its people. Be it following a strict lockdown, a smart lockdown, or certain standard operating procedures (SOPs), the city has witnessed a wide range of fluctuations especially in the service industry. Beauty salons make up a significant part of this industry and were often found filled to capacity before the spread of the virus, especially around Eid and other festive occasions. However, like most businesses, salons and parlours have been greatly affected by the novel coronavirus.
Beauty salons were quick to adapt to the new normal when they reopened. Famous places in Lahore such as Depilex, Amna Z salon, and Hifsa Khan developed and followed through a strict set of SOPs in order to continue in business. The clients are sprayed with a disinfectant, their body temperature is checked at the entrance, facemasks and gloves are mandatory.
Some salons even interview their customers before an appointment, with regard to their travel history and health condition.
At Depilex, chairs for clients are placed six feet apart, and all surfaces and tools are sterilised frequently. Some places, such as Nabila’s, had started adopting strict measures as early as in May, to ensure that their customers felt safe enough to continue visiting the facility.
While beauty salons were still not allowed to open, under strict rules of lockdown, Nabila’s salon announced on Instagram that they would be establishing strict SOPs at their facility as soon as the lockdown was lifted. The salon owner claimed to have taken “scientific precision” in implementing the SOPs, and went as far as using hazmat suits and face shields/visors in the salon while the virus was still at its peak. The owner told her social media followers that she had refused to live in a circle of fear and would instead “take full charge,” after careful research of ways to raise the bar, when it comes to providing salon services amid the pandemic. While her decision was met with criticism by most on social media, many other mainstream salons ultimately adopted the same means as the service industry reopened post lockdown. They were able gain the trust of their customers by advertising their precautionary policies on social media.
The smaller salons, on the other hand, have suffered greatly, especially during the early days of the pandemic. As Shabana Farrukh, of Godian Beauty Salon in DHA, tells TNS, “Clients who would earlier drop in, began to come only by appointment. If they saw the place was a bit busy they would instantly leave.”
Farrukh recalls how a client who got up to five services done once a visit before the pandemic, would now “get only a few quick things done and then rush out.”
Ismat Rashid from Saima’s, in Garden Town, adds that while the salon staff makes sure that they have masks and gloves on at all times, a small, crowded space often makes it too hot to wear a mask at all times. Yet, “we try to stick by the SOPs as much as possible, since the customers often send back more of their family if they return satisfied with our safety measures.”
As smaller salons struggled to maintain their clientele, at-home services tried to fill the gap. Mrs Sonia, a freelance beautician and makeup artist, says, “I too was scared of the virus initially and stopped going to houses in fear of contracting it. However, as I learnt to follow the basic SOPs such as wearing a facemask and using a hand sanitiser, I’ve been able to resume work.”
As smaller salons struggled to maintain their clientele, at-home services tried to fill the gap. Mrs Sonia, a freelance beautician and makeup artist, says, “I too was scared of the virus initially and discontinued house visits for fear of contracting it. However, as I learnt to follow the basic SOPs such as wearing a facemask and using a hand sanitiser, I’ve been able to resume work.
“I can see that people are even more careful when they invite you to their place [for salon services],” she adds. “They not only expect you to wear a mask but keep reminding you to remain as far away from the face as possible.”
Another freelance beautician Sajida Ali says, “Business has thankfully increased. People now call me over for even small, quick services that they would previously drop in at the salon for. They are happier this way because at home they can make you follow any number of precautions, to their satisfaction.”
Other at-home beauty services such as GharPar have also quickly adapted to the situation in the city. According to the company’s blog, while public places are still dangerous, having a beautician at your place is nowhere near as harmful.
The home beauty service claims to carry out frequent Covid-19 tests of their staff and provide them with precautionary equipment such as hazmat suits, masks and gloves besides training them to sanitise their equipment regularly.
While at-home services are believed to be the ultimate solution when it comes to getting beauty services in times of Corona, experts in the field think otherwise. As Masarrat Misbah, the owner of Depilex, puts it: “Coming to salons is safer than calling services at home. In the first situation, the salon is responsible for the client’s safety, while in the second, you never know what precautionary measures the beautician has taken.”
Mehr-un-Nisa, 20, says she’d “prefer going to a salon any day, than have someone over to do my beauty treatments. But I’ve been forced to rethink it. However, if I see beauty salons continuing to follow SOPs strictly I will gladly go back.”
Many regular users of beauty salons, who visited the facility at least thrice a month, have reduced the frequency of visits to once in a few months. Rashid Saleemi, a middle aged resident of Lahore, says, “I don’t believe the SOPs will be followed for a long time at salons, as people tend to become careless as the crowd grows in number, which is why I haven’t been to a salon in a long time.”
Lastly, the pandemic has also given rise to the trend of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) haircuts, facials and other beauty treatments, enabling many to avoid salons altogether. That said, beauty salons are a major part of a metropolitan city’s service industry, and they don’t look likely to fade away as such.
The writer is a student of political science at LUMS, and a freelance journalist